Fourth-graders in Northwood Elementary School’s REACH program now have an idea of how a prosthetic limb works, because they recently had the opportunity to assemble one.
The activity was part of an engineering unit where students learned about types of engineers and how they think, plan and design based on the criteria and constraints for a particular task.
The class designed and built bridges, parachutes and even packaging that would allow M&Ms to be enjoyed in space. Most recently, students learned how engineer help people and animals with missing limbs. They studied Winter, a dolphin, and Pierre, a penguin, who survived because of the work of engineers.
“One of my goals this year is to provide opportunities to connect classroom learning to authentic learning experiences,” said Melanie Klock, REACH teacher.
Klock approached Sean Zeller, a certified prosthetist/orthotist at University of Rochester, about sharing how his work is connected to the engineering design process students learned in class. Zeller works with Northwood fourth-grader Juliana Turner, who was born without the lower part of one leg. Turner’s triplet sisters, Angela and Lia, are students in the REACH class.
Zeller talked to Northwood’s fourth-grade classes about the history of prosthetics and the process of making them. Turner brought two of the 15 prosthetics she’s used, including the first one she had as a baby.
At the end of the assembly, Turner received a gift certificate for her own gymnastics mat to use at home. An avid gymnast, she takes lessons at Northwest YMCA.
“Juliana always comes to practice with a smile and a positive attitude,” said Maria Russo, Turner’s instructor. “She is willing to help her peers improve, and works hard to personally improve.”
Zeller gave the REACH students boxes of parts after the assembly, so that they could work in groups to assemble different types of prosthetic legs. Each group assembled their prosthesis correctly.
“Helping students engage in tasks that are directly connected to what the true discipline requires provides them with authentic and meaningful learning,” Klock said.